Brown mascara may have been around for decades, but, like many underrated, classic makeup products, it's found newfound fame in 2023 thanks to TikTok. While mascara is an everyday staple in my makeup routine, I've always worn black mascaras—so when I started to see brown mascara videos popping up on my TikTok FYP, I naturally disregarded them. But, the thing about TikTok is that once you've seen one brown mascara video, you'll see five, then ten, and the next thing you know you're Googling 'best brown mascaras' and hitting an 'order now' button...
I'm now a total brown mascara convert, and I'm not alone—with over 43 million views on TikTok (and counting) brown mascara is a key part of the 'no makeup-makeup' or 'clean girl' trend that defines so many makeup tutorials on the app. This trend is all about enhancing your natural features—think, lightweight skin tints that allow your freckles to show through, cream blushers and highlighters that give skin a dewy finish, and lip oils, which tint (while nourishing) lips. Since brown mascara offers a softer, more natural-looking alternative to black mascara, its current popularity totally makes sense.
Of course, brown mascara has long since been a staple in every makeup artists' kit. "Brown mascara makes for a softer, more curated, and natural effect," says Elyse Renau, Executive Director and Global Beauty Makeup Artist for Too Faced. "I also love this shade for someone who is first starting to wear makeup as it looks young and fresh."
As for how to wear brown mascara, if you want to replicate the definition that a black mascara gives, Renau recommends tightlining your upper lashline with a brown eyeliner before applying brown mascara. "This gives a liner effect without it actually looking like you're wearing liner, and will make your lashes appear thicker instantly," she explains.
Scroll down to read the Who What Wear UK team's honest reviews of 2023's biggest mascara trend, and see their favourite brown mascaras in action.
Grace Day, Freelance Beauty Editor & Who What Wear UK Contributing Beauty Editor
If you asked me what my one desert island makeup staple would be, it would 100% be mascara. In fact, most days it's the only product I wear when I leave the house. I just think that mascara does so much—no matter if your lips are bare or your brows un-groomed, having long, volumised lashes adds drama and definition, and let's face it, makes you look alive. As I have dark brown hair and naturally black lashes, I've never previously thought twice about what colour mascara to wear—for me, it's always been black.
So, when I started testing brown mascaras out for this story, I was expecting to like the effect but not love it enough to continue wearing it on a daily basis. How wrong I was... Since first opening the tube of YSL's Lash Clash Mascara in Brown, I've worn nothing else since. While it doesn't add definition in the same (obvious) way a black mascara does, it instead has the effect of making it look like your natural lashes are thicker and longer than they actually are. It's the perfect 'no makeup-makeup' item and I'm totally converted.
Newly available in brown, this MUA-approved YSL mascara has a thick and fluffy brush which delivers up to 200% more volume.
Joy Ejaria, Who What Wear UK Social Media Editor
I'm a glasses wearer so eye make-up for me is very important. I’ve been a brown mascara fan for a few years now because I find them less harsh than the standard black, especially since mascara is the only make-up I wear on a daily basis. In general, Benefit's They're Real has always been my go-to because when layered under black mascara I'm able to achieve the lash look I desire. But , having heard such good things about Too Faced's Better Than Sex black mascara, I knew there was no way the brown version would let me down— and right I was. It managed to lengthen and give volume to my usually sparse lashes. The shape of the wand is perfect because it packs enough product and dispenses it across each lash nicely. My only wish was that it could have been a deeper brown. As a dark-skinned woman, I'm often advised to reach for black mascara as it would complement my skin tone more so while this mascara is great, I think my search for the perfect brown shade must continue.
"I am loving our warm Better Than Sex Mascara in Chocolate for softer daytime looks," says Renau. "It's giving quiet luxury, it's giving not trying too hard, it's giving I was born with long lashes!"
Eleanor Vousden, Who What Wear UK Beauty Editor
As a brunette with almost black lashes, I've rather foolishly ruled out brown mascara altogether up until now. In fact, I think the only time I've ever worn it is when I've bought it by accident instead of my usual black and retired it to the bottom of my makeup bag. However, when Dior's Diorshow Iconic Overcurl Mascara in Brown landed on my desk recently, I was curious to give it another go. Firstly, the pigment is a brick hue, which has a slight red tone to it. In colour theory, red brings out green, I was surprised that it made my brown eyes look more olive and golden, while still remaining subtle. And, as with all of Dior's mascaras, the formulas are second-to-none. My lashes are long but stubbornly straight, but this curved brush scoops my lashes up to attention, and it's genuinely one of the only mascaras that actually holds a curl all day.
As well as adding length and volume, this mascara's curved brush helps to give lashes a lifted, boosted effect. No eyelash curler required.
Jerrylyn Saguiped, Who What Wear UK Affiliates Manager
I’ve always been intrigued by brown mascara, but to be honest, I was sceptical as to whether it would make any difference to my very short (and very straight) jet-black lashes. The first thing I noticed about the YSL Lash Clash mascara was how large the wand was, which I initially thought might make it tricky to apply. I was pleasantly surprised however that the mascara didn't transfer onto my skin during application, and the smaller end of the coned brush made it super easy to get to my inner corner lashes. YSL Lash Clash promises volume, and I found that my lashes looked fuller and more voluminous compared to my daily black mascara without being clumpy—the perfect consistency! I was amazed that the brown shade also did show up, and whilst the difference was only slight, it gave my lashes a beautifully natural, healthy look. Am I a brown mascara convert? Whilst my only note would be that I wish this mascara would help to lengthen a little more, I am definitely adding this one to my roster of go-to products, particularly for my 'no-makeup makeup' and soft glam days.
Combined, this mascara's innovative conical brush and thick, creamy formula deliver impact with every swipe.
Maxine Eggenberger, Who What Wear UK Deputy Editor
The last time I tried brown mascara, it was part of set I ordered from my mum's Avon catalogue. I'll spare you the details on how long ago that was... As someone with blue/grey eyes, whenever I find myself in the position of having my makeup done for me, the first thing the pros want to do is slick my lashes with brown mascara and adorn my lids with a coppery smoke. "They'll really make your eyes pop!" they say, which is precisely why I avoid it—if I deliberately try to make my eyes look any bluer, it almost makes my pupils disappear. It sounds odd I know, but it's true! However, I was excited to try Too Faced's Better Than Sex Mascara in Chocolate; I've used this mascara in black in the past and loved how fluttery it made my lashes look.
First impressions seeing the colour on the wand, the colour is very brown; chocolate is precisely the term I'd use to describe. I had been hoping for a ash brown tone but we love. Applying it to my lashes, the formula coated them seamlessly and on, the colour matched my dark eyebrows so well, you'd think it deliberate. I find that when I want to wear minimal eye makeup, the black mascara I currently have in my beauty bag can sometimes come off too harsh; without liner or shadow on my eyes, this brown tone looked natural and effortless with a defined curl—the results I'd want. Trying it out in the evening with heavier eye makeup, the brown tone didn't look quite right against the charcoal and taupe shadows I tend to favour. However, going forward, on the days where I want to wear a bare lid, it's going to be a brown mascara that I reach for.
"This formula performs like the original black by delivering extreme volume length and curl," says Renau. "It's the holy grail for luscious lashes that you feel comfortable living everyday life in."
Shop More Brown Mascaras:
If you have veery fair, blonde lashes, this mink-brown mascara makes for a softer, more wearable alternative to harsh black.
Thanks to its short, fluffy brush, this is an excellent mascara to choose if you want to make your natural lashes appear thicker and more voluminous.
This mascara really ticks all of the boxes—volume, length, curl, and a rich brown colour payoff.
This brown mascara has been around for years and is a cult favourite—the reviews speak for themselves.
With a warm, reddish tint to it, this brown mascara really makes blue and green eyes pop.
If length is top of your agenda when choosing a mascara, look no further than this Sweed mascara. The fine, comb-like brush helps to separate and extend each individual lash.
Maybelline's Sky High mascara is a TikTok sensation in its own right—so it totally made sense when the brand released a brown version last year.
Grace Day is a beauty editor and content creator. She has over 10 years of beauty-industry experience, spanning editorial, retail, and e-commerce, which gives her a unique understanding into how people shop for their beauty routines.
While studying for a history degree (specialising in the history of beauty) and working as a beauty adviser in department stores, Grace started writing her own beauty blog in order to share the products she discovered while dealing with acne. After graduating, she moved to Beauty Bay as beauty editor and content manager. Grace is currently a beauty contributor to Who What Wear. She has also written for Hypebae and PopSugar and works as a brand consultant and copywriter.
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